Who was Alexander the coppersmith in the Bible?Alexander the coppersmith (also referred to as Alexander the metalworker in the NIV) is mentioned by Paul in his letter to Timothy in Ephesus in 2 Timothy 4:14. Paul warned Timothy to "beware of him" because he "strongly opposed" the gospel message and did Paul "great harm" (2 Timothy 4:14–15). The letter of 2 Timothy mentions no other details regarding Alexander the coppersmith.
However, Paul's first letter to Timothy mentions an Alexander who had rejected the faith and a good conscience, had "made shipwreck of [his] faith," and had blasphemed along with another named Hymanaeus (1 Timothy 1:18–20). Furthermore, the book of Acts records that when Paul was in Ephesus, a metalworker who fashioned idols of Artemis (named Demetrius) stirred up a riot against Paul and his message. In the midst of that riot, "some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward… to make a defense" (Acts 19:33). This defense was likely to dissociate the Jews from these new followers of The Way (Christians). However, the mob ultimately rejected Alexander too because, just like Christians, the Jews did not worship Artemis either. Afterward, unbelieving Jews started plotting against Paul and his message. Although it is not entirely certain because Alexander was a common name, these three references to Alexander in Ephesus are likely about the same man.
If all three are references to the same man, then it appears Alexander opposed the gospel message because he clung to his Jewish tradition. At a time when he could have united with Paul defending him as another monotheistic worshipper of Yahweh against the polytheistic pagans who worshipped Artemis, Alexander instead chose to distance himself from Paul in front of the riotous mob. Paul left Ephesus after that riot and later referenced his time there as "serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews" (Acts 20:19). Perhaps the riot and ensuing plots by unbelieving Jews in Ephesus are the "harm" Paul was referencing when he warned Timothy to beware of Alexander the coppersmith.
Despite this very personal pain, Paul did not seek personal revenge. He did not ask Timothy to right the wrongs Paul endured. Instead, Paul declared about Alexander, "the Lord will repay him according to his deeds" (2 Timothy 4:14). Paul understood that God calls His people to leave retribution up to Him. In doing so, Paul was following his own advice. He had written to the church in Rome, "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord' " (Romans 12:19). God promised His people in Deuteronomy 32:41 that He would bring justice on their behalf, calling them to trust in His timing and sovereignty. Paul exhibited that type of faith in God when he told Timothy that the Lord would repay Alexander the coppersmith according to his deeds. Although Paul left retribution up to God, he did instruct Timothy to beware of Alexander. He named Alexander's misdeeds and warned others about him. Leaving retribution to God does not mean remaining silent about the harm that has occurred. Instead, Paul set an example to follow in naming the misdeeds, warning others, and then leaving retribution to the Lord.
In brief, Alexander the coppersmith was an Ephesian metalworker who caused Paul harm, against whom Paul warned Timothy, and whose ultimate fate was left up to God.
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